Careers

Three Things Not to Put on Your Resume -- And Three You Must

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Recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a single resume, according to a study conducted by online job search service TheLadders. They looked specifically at details regarding the candidate’s education, current position and previous position. Therefore, as you build your resume, you may want to focus your content so that you quickly grab the recruiters’ attention.

“A resume should only give an employer enough information that they are impressed and would need to interview you to learn more," said Jacques Domenge, a career coach with 13 years of experience both in higher education and the finance industry.


Keeping in mind that the goal of your resume is to get you an initial interview, following you'll find exactly what you should include on your resume, as well as what you should not.

Three Things Not to Include on Your Resume

1. Personal Information

In the US, personal information beyond your name and contact details must not be included on the resume. The application process is expected to be objective and a resume with a headshot, for example, will not be considered. Although this is an accepted practice in some European and Asian countries, it will result in a dismissal of your resume in the US.

Details such as your date of birth, religion or marital status are also not to be included on a resume. Be careful with lists of organizations you belong to as these may indicate personal information an employer can use to dismiss your application. The resume highlights your professional accomplishments and this is the main element employers should consider as they evaluate your application.

2. Scholarships, Test Scores

Academic scholarships and test scores that do not align with your career path do not need to take up valuable space on your resume. I know you are proud of the academic scholarships you received -- and you should be! But what these show employers is that you know how to be a good student and earn high grades. The same applies to test scores, including GMAT, TOEFL or GRE. Recruiters are more interested in your ability to learn and grow than in your ability to score high on a test.

Domenge further advises to “avoid mentioning a skill or language on your resume that you cannot use in a professional capacity.” The information is unnecessary. Recruiters look at your resume to determine if you have what it takes to fulfill the role. Nonessential content clutters your draft and may distract recruiters from the information you want them to see.

3. Lies, Exaggerations

I know this one should be obvious but I will keep emphasizing it as long as I keep seeing resumes with less than truthful information on them. If you don’t have a lot of experience, you may be tempted to inflate what you have accomplished but keep in mind that once you're in an interview, you will be asked details about what you put on your resume and will inevitably be caught in the lie. As Domenge emphasizes, “embellishing a resume with overstatements is very easy to detect by recruiters.”

If you are not sure how to showcase your skills when you don’t yet have job or internship experience, check out this article for ideas on quality experiences employers may consider as they evaluate your application. Show them you have the necessary background to bring value to their team.

Three Items to Include on Your Resume

1. Relevant Information

Recruiters look for information that relates to the skills and competencies required for the advertised role. A resume is not a list of everything you have ever done; rather, it “is a summary of experiences and qualifications as they relate to the job you are applying to,” Domenge says. As a career coach, I see students struggle to fit all their information on one page, making the font smaller, up to the point where I need a magnifying glass to read what’s there. Avoid adding so much text that your draft becomes difficult to read.

Instead, as you build out each section -- Education, Experience and Qualifications -- think about the parts that align with the job description. Beyond the three basic sections, reflect on what else you have done, on and off campus, and include certifications, competitions and academic projects that speak to your skill set relevant to the job or a particular industry.

When you polish the content of your resume, use keywords found on the job description or that are relevant to the industry you are targeting. Pay attention to the list of qualifications or required duties as advertised on the job description. Identify themes of skills (e.g., analytical, communication, management) the employer seeks. Which bullets and verbs on your current draft indicate that you have those skills?

2. Accomplishments, Achievements

In most cases, your resume should not be longer than one page. Space on that page becomes prime real estate and you want to populate it with details that will show an employer you have the necessary background, education and skills to perform in the advertised role.

To highlight relevant achievements, begin each bullet statement with an active verb and connect that verb to a specific outcome. “The best bullets include concepts like scope, purpose and achievement,” Domenge says. The following verbs are not strong: Assist, help, participate, get and responsible for (that last one isn’t even a verb!), but I see them on resume drafts all the time. Avoid them. “Your bullets should be written in a way that communicates that you know what part you played in the bigger picture,” Domenge adds. That way, employers see not only that you have the skills to do the job but that you also can add value by applying those skills.

3. Quantifiable Outcomes

Each section on your resume needs to include numbers that speak to the scope of your accomplishments. Specific qualifiers and numbers tell reviewers how accomplished you are in a particular field. Avoid vague, broad and generic statements that sound more like a list of tasks, not accomplishments.

For example, instead of simply writing "Organized events, meetings and workshops," be specific and mention how many events, how many attendees and so forth. For instance, "Organized three large-scale events (average attendance: 500) to promote …"

Your bullets may also point to the value you brought your team. For example, "Implemented an innovative marketing strategy and increased social media followers by 50 percent."

When you know recruiters only spend an average of six seconds on your resume, stressing over the logistics of listing everything you've done in an effort to impress them is a loss for you -- a loss of what may be a wonderful opportunity. So take a good look at your current resume and make sure it offers a detailed but concise summary of how you meet the requirements for the role you are targeting.